Civil Society and Post-Independence Democracy Levels
The role of civil society for the consolidation of democracy is contested. Some argue that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are important “schools of democracy” and may foster democratic consolidation. Others emphasize that anti-democratic CSOs may undermine democracy. This debate is particularly relevant in the context of newly independent states. At this critical juncture, both democratic and authoritarian regime trajectories seem possible. Societal preconditions – such as the state of civil society – are highly relevant for the way forward. To what extent does the strength and the nature of civil society organizations (CSOs) prior to independence have an impact on the consolidation of democracy? We argue that the existence of democratic CSOs prior to democratic transition strengthen post-independence democracy whereas non-democratic CSOs have a detrimental effect. For the first time, this argument is empirically tested, using data from the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) on 92 cases of independence since 1905. The results of this study show that the presence of democratic CSOs prior to independence is important for the consolidation of democracy, the presence of non-democratic CSOs before independence is negatively correlated to democracy levels of the new state following independence.
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